Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
April 14, 2022

Conscious Experience Design with James Breeze

James Breeze, Chief Experience Officer, at Objective Experience, shares his ongoing work on a framework and a set of competencies which he calls Conscious Experience Design - values and behaviours that designers can use to improve their lives and the lives of their users and the planet.

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#010 - You’ve designed and launched a shiny new product. Engagement is high. Your company hits the success metrics. Everyone celebrates. But deep inside, you’re still questioning whether your design is actually making people’s lives better.

In this episode, James Breeze, Chief Experience Officer, at Objective Experience, shares his ongoing work on a framework he’s designed to help makes designers be more conscious of the impact of their work on humans and the planet and make better decisions. The framework includes Consciousness Competencies, a set of values and behaviours designers can use to improve their lives and the lives of those around them and the planet.

James believes that people working in Human-Centred Design must be highly conscious and compassionate, skills that can and must be learned, just like any other design skill. James also shares his story of becoming a Buddhist monk in Thailand and how that shaped his world view and his mission to improve human lives.

In this episode:

  • From a monk to an entrepreneur
  • Getting hired as a junior designer
  • Challenges of aligning your values with your work
  • Speaking up for ethics in design using data
  • Why compassion is more important than empathy?
  • Bringing more consciousness into your work
  • Gathering the courage to talk about feelings
  • And much more!

Contact James Breeze at

Objective Experience

Steven Kotler

Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

Episode edited by Niall Mackay


[00:00:00] James Breeze: There's a difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is feeling like other people feel, right. So yes, you can do that when you're doing an interview or usability test or user research, but compassion takes it to the next level and actually looks at how you actually might make a difference to that person's life. And I believe that's fundamental to everybody on the planet, but particularly for designers and researchers. If I think like that, I think their decisions will be much better and they won't just see their job as drawing wire frames or making a prototype.

[00:00:31] Nirish Shakya: That's James Breeze, Chief Experience Officer at Objective Experience, which is the first human center design consultancy that I work for the beginning of my UX career and a fun fact about James. He became a Buddhist monk in Thailand when it was just seventeen. In this episode, James shares his ongoing work on the framework that he calls Conscious Experience Design and a set of competencies that designers can practice to become more conscious of the impact of the designs on humans and the planet. James draws upon his experience as a monk and organizational psychologist, and also a design entrepreneur to bring more compassion and vulnerability into work. Keep listening if you're a seeking more meaning and impact in your work that aligns with your values.

[00:01:17] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:31] Nirish Shakya: Hi, my name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a designer educator, and the host of the Design Feeling podcast, a show about the human behind the human centred designer. On this podcast, my expert guests, and I go deeper than the craft of design and into things that make us better designers and problem solvers, things such as self-awareness creative confidence and meaning. Are you ready? Let's jump in. 

 James, welcome to Design Feeling. Yeah. Good, good. Thanks. It's been great to see you after such a long time.

[00:02:08] James Breeze: Yes. 

[00:02:10] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. 

[00:02:11] James Breeze: Always. Suddenly we changed. 

[00:02:12] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, it's probably almost 10, almost a decade. It's strange how time flies so fast. 

So James you have a very fascinating career. I mean, One of the things that I have to mention is that, you have been a Buddhist monk in Thailand. You have started your own human centered design consultancy, and now you are working on a framework to help designers and people be more conscious in the way they live and work.

And I think you've told me that the purpose that you're going for is to help improve human life on planet which is a pretty big purpose to take on your shoulders. So tell us how did you even get started?

[00:02:54] James Breeze: I went on a student exchange at Thailand in 1991. When I was 17, I looked at the top family in Southern Thailand. And while I was there, I saw all these monks wandering around. wondered what they did. So I said to my host family cannot be a monk. And I said, sure. So they set it up and did my ordination ceremony, shaved my head and eyebrows put on the orange Grove and got shipped off to a monastery, which is also a personal retreat and lived there for a month.

I learned how to meditate a little bit myself. Fostered did my arms around begging for food. I lived with the Thai people ahead of time. I spoke Thai. And what that might be realized was that I was very interested in the human mind and in the unconscious the meditation gave me good insight into my own mind.

And it helped me understand why I do the sort of things that are. And then went back to Australia and did my science degree and decided to focus on psychology. Did the psychology thinking that I was going to become a counselor, did lifeline a lifeline in the UK, but did lifeline counseling got to talk to all kinds of different people?

 When it came to others, I had a year cause I did it part-time I had a year to think about something and doing research on something that was useful and decided to research meditation because I've had that experience living in Thailand and in the monastery.

So I looked at stress and anxiety and self-actualization, I'm trying to understand how those things are influenced by meditation. And of course I showed that stress and anxiety reduced, the more you meditate and after very long time meditation, you become more self-actualized. So I thought that I was going to do clinical psychology, got accepted into a course, even in Queensland.

And then right at the last minute, a friend of mine who was doing organizational psychology in Macquarie university in Sydney inspired me to just put my application in and I got accepted. And so decided from helping individuals to helping companies and worked for the likes of Anderson consulting, which is now Accenture looking at organizational culture and motivation at work and that sort of thing. But I found at the time. that it wasn't particularly new and exciting and insightful, there was no new kind of ways of thinking, being done. It was very much like copy and paste sort of work ended up working in a user experience. So at the time it was called a usability consultancy in Sydney one of the first and ended up running that for eight years. But working in the usability consultancy my sort of perspective on how am I helping people here changed to basically taking out the daily stress out of people's lives and making a technology that they use easy. So by. Doing that I can have an influence on a lot of lives, particularly because we were working with the largest banks, telecommunications government in Australia.

So millions of people were using the interfaces that we were doing research on. 

[00:05:43] Nirish Shakya: I'm actually really fascinated about how you, went to Thailand, decided to become monk. Did you go to Thailand to become a monk or was that something that you came across while you're there?

[00:05:52] James Breeze: no, I came across it while I was there and I known, I worked with a exchange organization called AFS out of America, very old organization, like rotary and a couple of people who were from the town where I lived in south Australia had been monks. In the years prior when they went to Thailand. So I knew there? was a possibility that I could do it, but while I was there, I literally did it just cause I thought it would be an interesting experience to see life from a different worldview to find out what these people do, who wander around in our interrupts all the time. 

[00:06:23] Nirish Shakya: And you mentioned, you learned things about yourself. us what did you actually learn about yourself?

[00:06:30] James Breeze: I guess when you're in a retreat like that, you're not talking to very many people, it's spending a lot of time thinking or trying not to think the top of meditation I was learning was called Anapanasati, which is mindfulness of breathing. So you know, a lot of things go through your mind and you're also when you're a mom, you're not allowed to have any possessions because you give up all those attachments.

So all I had was the orange ropes that I was in and I wouldn't pillow on a straw mat. That was it. Yeah, there's a lot of time. And I had a lot of fantastic conversations with the person who was allocated as my teacher while I was there. Talking about everything from, my mental health, my mom's mental health, one was going to do with my science degree, which turned out to be psychology. 

[00:07:12] Nirish Shakya: And it seems that's when he started to connect the dots between, for example mental health, and mental wellbeing into your work and training as an organizational psychologist, and then moving into the world of usability, which is mostly about people and how they use in a proximity and technology.

How did that shift happen to you from, focusing on organizational psychology to usability and end users.

[00:07:36] James Breeze: I actually started it in a sales role when I was in my first usability company which ended up running. But the alarm of between psychology And UX or HCD is very clear. It's about understanding human behavior and building things that people want and expect and know how to use without training.

When it comes down to why psychology in that spice, it's just about human behavioral research and doing that very well. And study organizational psychology brings a business perspective into it. So that when we do research and make recommendations and do designs, there's always reasoning behind why we assign what we're saying and a very good description of how things work and why they are as they are.

[00:08:17] Nirish Shakya: you also started your own consultancy objective experience. And when was this again? It was 2007 or 

[00:08:27] James Breeze: Yeah, I was encouraged to go out on my own by my wife and some friends thought that I could do a really good job on my own. And I'm still doing it now. So it was a great decision. I think I'm best credit IDs and working on things for myself without having another boss.

So yeah, it was a big step. And at the time I think we just got in and got on with it. When we really think back about the amount of cashflow we had and, the things that we could afford, it was pretty much nothing for a few years, but we made it through that and we still have our ups and downs. 

[00:08:58] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And the reason, I know this is because you hired me as a consultant, 

[00:09:03] James Breeze: Yeah. The early 

[00:09:04] Nirish Shakya: work for objective. Yeah, this was back in 2010, I think more than decade ago. And I remember like back then, I didn't really have any proper UX experience. And I came to you and we had an interview at coffee and then you're like, do you want a job?

And I was actually really surprised that, someone would hire me without any experience because, I was, I'd been rejected by a couple of other companies in Sydney in terms of UX roles. Why did you decide to hire me without any experience?

[00:09:29] James Breeze: Well, I think in Australia cause some Australian office now. But in Australia, back in the day when I was in Australia we were always known as a United nations. And I like to hire people who have had worldly experience?

of different cultures, obviously you're from Nepal. That's the cotton goes without saying.

But I do believe that's important when it comes to. Being able to empathize and interview and work with users or consumers or whoever it is that you're doing the research with because they're not you. And you need to be able to look at things from that perspective. 

[00:10:04] Nirish Shakya: Because the reason I asked you that question was I hear from a lot of new, like junior designers that, finding your first role is probably one of the hardest things. Because first of all, there aren't many junior roles available. And even with junior roles, people look for experience.

So you don't have an experience because you haven't had a job. And then you're being asked experience. What's what would be your number one advice for junior designers looking for their first role?

[00:10:33] James Breeze: Work experience placement students have always been a really solid source of employees for objective experience that business. And I don't really mind whether the person has been paid for the job or not. It's about what they've done and who they've worked with. 

[00:10:49] Nirish Shakya: Is it then about being able to demonstrate value and then seeking opportunities that allows you to create that value and attitude portfolio? So they can actually demonstrate that 

[00:11:00] James Breeze: At work. We always talk about life balance because we only have one life and work happens to be part of it. So when a new employee is presenting to me, who they are and what they've done, they've studied is a small part of the equation.

I usually look for somebody with a scientific background if I'm hiring a researcher, because I know that they know how to use the empirical method. Other things that they've done, the groups that have been in the sports, they play the adventures that, you know, countries I've been to, all of those things are important when it comes to hiring somebody.

Making sure that you have the types of experiences under your belt, good or bad that the employer requires is really important because there's plenty of people who come and they want to get a UX researcher job. And they had absolutely no experience in any of that sort of thing. Even from university or from volunteering or from just living, and it's pretty easy to see those things that are missing even from a resume or a LinkedIn profile. 

[00:12:07] Nirish Shakya: Walway is some of your biggest challenges starting and running a consultancy or you HCD consultancy.

[00:12:16] James Breeze: How I was talking about it today actually with my son, who's 13 now. And my wife, Kylie at the stop, you don't have any clients, you don't have any background, obviously you have experiences by some other things that you were doing other jobs, but you got to fake it till you make it and then fake it till you make, it is something that has to continue for the rest of your business. 

[00:12:35] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. 

[00:12:35] James Breeze: Particularly 

[00:12:36] Nirish Shakya: did you mean by faking it till you make it? How did you do that?

[00:12:38] James Breeze: Well, I guess you just need to be confident and talk in terms of what you've done and not necessarily talking to us or what the company has done, cause it's really just the company at the start. It's just me and the people who I hire the early hires. Lucky. So yeah, I think your question was, what are the hurdles?

The hurdles of course is cashflow. No, it's great to get a project with a client and staff often forget about this project with a client. If they don't pay you for it, then you must have not had the project. Or if you a punch it with a client and you underquoted, and you end up working twice as long, better off not doing it because it's going to cost you money in the end. And that? challenge doesn't go away. It hasn't gone away from me for gosh, since 2007, and I was running somebody else's business prior to that, it's still the same issue. And now the cost of consultants is going higher. So it makes it even harder. 

[00:13:26] Nirish Shakya: One of the things that I do hear from, designers, entrepreneurs is the challenge of I guess aligning your inner values and your principles with the work you're doing. And a lot of times, your ideals don't match the reality on the ground in terms of the kinds of work that you have to, take on board a lot of times just to survive. What's been your experience in being able to balance those two aspects the ideals versus the.

[00:13:53] James Breeze: Yeah. The first thing that comes to mind is, sometimes when you don't have any cash flow at the moment, some of it, some of the. clients haven't paid or you haven't had very good sales, things have been quiet. Any businesses, good business. We don't often have the Liberty of turning away business if we don't like what they're doing. you know, That was a company that sells cigarettes or gambling, stuff like that. I always try my best, not to sweat with those kind of companies. Sometimes you have to. But generally not now we've been going for so long. We don't. In the past year we've had to, but we always made sure that we ask the client that the stuff, if they're happy to do that sort of project.

But when it comes to, trying to understand how to align your purpose in life with your work that's been a challenge for me for a long time. So like I said, I did psychology help. People got into organizational psychology instead of individual psychology and health, and just started to work with organizations and then got out of that into working with the design and usability of systems which is further away from you. One-on-one health psychologists normally do. Not to mention in some situations we need to work for clients that are just making money or like a bank or clients that are selling things to people which may or may not make them unhealthy. And then they throw away the rubbish on the packet that they bought online and that creates more waste or they're using an app that two sublets, lots of battery life off cross millions of people's phones, which requires them to charge them more. So that's not very good for the environment. And trying to think my purpose here is to improve people's life on planet earth. How's it doing that if I'm helping those kinds of company. Yes, there are things that all those companies can do to make things better. 

But during COVID in the first lockdown in 2020, I had a lot of time to think about that. You know, How can I align my purpose with one of these we're doing? Looking at the apps that we designed, I came up with a framework called Conscious Experience Design, and that looks at understanding four different factors across in terms of the product design and what it's doing. The presence that it creates, the happiness that it generates, compassion, that it demonstrates and how it influences the planet.

[00:16:06] Nirish Shakya: This is basically a way to measure those things and the impact that those products have on people using them.

[00:16:16] James Breeze: That's right. So. if we're thinking about presence, so does the product create a sense of purpose for the person and inspire them to achieve their goals? Does it give them control or make them feel in control? Do they feel trust and respect? Does it respect the privacy the time, the sense of freewill or Are they locked into something that, that I really want to do? And does it give them focus? Can they engage at the task at hand, getting into a flow state and achieve what I need to, and they're not just finished without having to think, and we're going to support and all that sort of thing. The next major category is happiness. So how does it bring people delight and how does it encourage healthy habits, whether they're digital, online or offline as well as compassion. So are we empowering? Old people from all different walks of life to achieve their goals equally, are we creating a sense of community, a sense of belonging and safety and collaboration with the products that we have and are we offering people help and support? There's certain things that we have to do, which are the old fashioned Nielsen heuristics, but it's important.

And then finally, how does, how do these, things influence the planet? So what's the environmental impact. I talked about energy consumption before. There's lots of other ways that we can influence that. And then also, how do they encourage sustainable behaviors?

[00:17:33] Nirish Shakya: Are these I say pillars or metrics, are they relevant to a certain niche of apps and products? Or would they be applicable to like any app and product? For example, let's say, I don't know, Instagram, I go on Instagram and I just stay there for 30 minutes. And now I realize where has time gone? I just been stuck, stuck, sucked into it. And from my own experience as a designer, that's what I've been trying to do to engage the user so that they'd actually, they forget about the rest of the world. So all back customer engagement how can you apply this into a, let's say an app, 

[00:18:04] James Breeze: what app, like Instagram? Yes, it does bring delight and make people feel good, but it doesn't necessarily encourage great habits. It just sucks people in, they get addicted to it. We may not be able to change that in terms of the product management team, but at least we can say, look, maybe there's some things you can do to break this up for people. So they're not on it all the time. I don't use any social media other than the ones I have to for work like. LinkedIn. But I'll give it, I gave it a lot a few years ago. We might be able to change some of these things, but we need to make people aware of it. And there's certainly plenty of examples of design decisions that people make that could create these kinds of things, these kind of that doc patents. But they might not be aware of it. So at least if we can tell clients that, Hey, this is a consideration, I can make a choice. 

[00:18:53] Nirish Shakya: And if you're a lone designer in a company trying to bring in these better practices of, more ethical design decisions. But if you ha, if you're the only voice in that company with that point of view, what can you do about it, or is your only choice to just leave and find a better company?

[00:19:12] James Breeze: We've opened their news. Yeah. Continue to beat my head against the wall with some clients. We're fortunate in Australia and Singapore, but the big companies, the enterprise companies do get it because they have to, they're trying to get a small percentages out of all of the various metrics of that. So they do get it, but there's plenty of other companies that don't, and we still come up with those challenges, but they're less these days.

If a design is, entrenched in the company and they're not necessarily understanding that stuff, we're making the right kind of decisions when it comes to resource allocation or design or whatever all you can do is try and rise your concerns. However, need to do that in the context of data and not just make stuff up, not just claim that these are issues, but demonstrate. Stories with metrics, with examples with behavioral reasoning to outline exactly why these things are an issue. There's plenty of resources that can allow you to do that. Whether those are existing analytics data for the product or stories from other companies or personal stories, whatever it is that gets the management's juices flowing and engages them emotionally could potentially help change their mind.

We use eye tracking in our business to do that. We have upped on tracking for many years, representing Toby pro across Asia Pacific. But what we find with eye tracking is when people can see where somebody's eyes are moving on the screen, all of a sudden they can understand why they're doing what they do.

And be engaged, hopefully emotionally with some of those experiences. And one on tracking video replay of somebody could potentially swing executive much, much faster than, some stats just seems to work and it's still working for us. I know you haven't done so much lately, but we still use our tracking as much as possible without with where we can go face to face. 

[00:21:15] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, but I do remember some of the eye tracking work that we did back in Sydney, and I would have remembered this particular instance where we went into a call center and we, put the tracker on the computer of the call center operator. And before the eye tracking, we asked the operator, if they had any issues with the software and they're like, no, everything's fine. We can use it, everything's perfectly fine. And then when we actually saw where they were looking at, they were looking at a very tiny corner in the bottom left corner of the screen, like really squinting their wrists in squinting their eyes to see what was there. And the most important information that they needed to see was in like a tiny corner in the bottom. And it was really hard for them to see it because it was like such tiny fonts, but for them it was just normal. They didn't even know that was an issue because they were, they've been trained to do that for the past 20 years. And when we saw that, they are having like so much trouble seeing that thing.

And when we change it to something bigger, The experience was like, wow, this is so much better.

[00:22:09] James Breeze: Yeah. So that is an example of how my experiences meditating relate to what we do in work at the moment. So the person in the call center could not tell you that they didn't like various things in the system because they were unconscious, but learned how to do this stuff. And it became a habit and they were not aware of that.

So you give them a usability interview without eye-tracking and they'd say it's so fun, which is what I did. As soon as you show them where their eyes are going, then I'll explain to you why they're having trouble. And this is what uncovers their unconscious experience and which is what also sways the client's perspectives on things that should, or shouldn't be that particular example that you gave you went from, oh, we've got a rubbish call center full of people who are stressed out and lazy and can't into data correctly to the systems responsible for let's redesign it, which we did, right? 

[00:23:14] Nirish Shakya: It's never the user's fault. It's always the system's fault. That is the number one principle within human centered design.

So again, putting that lens on the designer now what do you think are some of the things that, people who do the design, the designers what are the, some of the things that they're not conscious of in their day-to-day work?

[00:23:39] James Breeze: Let me onto that Christian in a bit of a roundabout way. The designers are not conscious of what they're not conscious of, that I want that I know. But they can learn. So if we think back to that question of my purpose and How do I bring the improvement of human life into what we do? Yes. We make technology easier to use and make, reduce the daily stresses of people's lives. And I've developed the framework for making sure that we think about things beyond just, the product and the design and the money that is making and the technology and the support that's required into other things like health and the environment and sustainability delight, that sort of thing. But that's still. at the product. It's not looking at the person who's designing the product. So a big epiphany that I had recently was it in terms of creating better products, we need to start by creating better people who happen to be designers. So if you think about one of your friends, who's a fantastic designer or all of the team that I work with, love them. The executives love them. They make good decisions. I would suggest that those people are probably very self-aware compassionate, empathic. Open-minded very good at reasoning. They'd probably get into flow states when they're doing their design work, and really focus on producing the best sort of thing. So all of those things make them a better person. And we used to hire for that. I've done recruitment in it. And we would hire for those things. We wouldn't necessarily think that we can train those things in Western society. We've trained intellect Eastern society in particularly in Buddhist society that chose to try and compassionate. So compassion can be trained just like self-awareness can be trained empathy to be trying to them onto this reason it can be trained. 

[00:25:34] Nirish Shakya: How do you train someone in compassion? 

[00:25:38] James Breeze: in compassion? one of the ways to it is to teach them how to meditate and then feel compassion for people for themselves and for other beings on the planet. And that will help improve themselves and everybody else. And that's the fundamental building block of life that humans 

[00:25:56] Nirish Shakya: is that important? How is that important for a designer? Who's all they're trying to do is for example, I don't know, design a few screens to get the users to do something right. 

[00:26:04] James Breeze: If they want to bring meaning to their life, they need to think about those screens and make sure that those screens are actually helping people. There's a difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is feeling like other people feel, right. So yes, you can do that when you're doing an interview or usability test or user research, but compassion takes it to the next level and actually looks at how you actually might make a difference to that person's life. And I believe that's fundamental to everybody on the planet, but particularly for designers and researchers. If I think like that, I think their decisions will be much better and they won't just see their job as drawing wire frames or making a prototype. So when I think about, how to become a better designer, it starts with obviously compassion, like we mentioned, and self-awareness, which also comes through being aware of your own experience. Moment to moment, including your thoughts, habits, emotions, your physiological processes, your gut feeling, your intuition. And that's the foundation upon which this competency in consciousness can be built and building self awareness. The number one way to do that is by practicing meditation. And I do that every day. I know you do that every day, too. We've both done that for many years. But that's, the foundation for all of this stuff. And when I wrote my thesis on meditation in 1995 it was considered like out there it's not that long ago, but now, the amount of publications on meditation and its effects on health. Is huge. So Yeah, it starts with that. The other sort of things that we can try people on, and this Is pretty easy as empathy engaging in asking questions and feeling what other people feel. Obviously there's the open-mindedness now I recruit open-mindedness because I believe if somebody has traveled, they can take people's worldview and be quite open to new ways of doing things and being nonjudgmental in their thinking and allowing you to observe and not judge.

Obviously reasoning is another key competency that you can learn the easiest way for me to find that is to recruit somebody who's done sides. Cause they have to reason every time they make a claim in any report or thesis or document that they're writing. 

And one thing which I'm working on actively is the concept of flow. So getting into that state where timestamps to you, your ego becomes. Less important. You focus and you get stuff done that you just really enjoyable. People get into the flow state very quickly in adrenaline sports. They jump off a cliff with a parachute on the back end. They've got to be focused. Otherwise they die, you know, on a Skype on it jumps to the great wall of China slider. And they do all kinds of crazy things that pushes the limits of human ability. But we can do that every day in every everyday things. I'm sure you've experienced design session or research session where you completely lost track of time and everything got done. That's what we want to teach people.

[00:28:53] Nirish Shakya: Is that something that you can intentionally create in your day-to-day kind of life? Or is that just something that just happened?

[00:29:03] James Breeze: People like Steven Kotler. I don't know if you've heard of him, but he would claim that yes, you can create that. You can create it. Yeah. 

[00:29:08] Nirish Shakya: W how would you create it?

[00:29:11] James Breeze: through a process of centering and breathing and setting up intention and understanding what your goals are. And there's a whole raft of things, which I can talk about later which is designed to get people into the flow state. There's four there's full courses and companies that just teach people how to do that. 

[00:29:29] Nirish Shakya: you trying to help just designers or just people in general with these competencies?

[00:29:34] James Breeze: So I think we're going to come right back to what we were talking about in my purpose. The stuff that I enjoy the most is teaching. Our staff at Objective Experience, all of these things. So we have a regular wellness, weekly catch-up and four 30 on Thursday. And Singapore and Sydney teams get together.

Last week we spoke about open-mindedness. The next session we've got is on empathy. We've got sessions coming up on all of these things, plus finding your purpose as well. So I really enjoy that stuff and that brings my purpose into my work, and if we can teach our clients how to do those things, then we can go out and teach other people, other designers, and everyone else in the world, how to do that, which is a very big goal, but you never know what happens.

But even as simple human centered design course, you can include these type of exercises across the whole course. Whether it's a essential. For a meditation at the stop of every day, just to make sure people are with you or whether it's teaching people, how to be empathic when they're doing research or making sure that people, don't make stuff up and actually reason using data to justify what they're doing.

So elements of all of these things should be and are in the courses that we teach to the objective academy on this on human centered design. 

[00:30:50] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Yeah. It must be pretty rare for, business leaders to prioritize some of these things like compassion and self-awareness and empathy and so on. And obviously you bring a lot of your experience as a monk, as it has as a, as an organizational psychologist. And which helps you get that in a point of view and apply that in your organization with your teams how can a business leader or a design leader implement some of these practices with, within their teams and organizations and start.

[00:31:19] James Breeze: It's interesting, because of these quite was quite threatening for me to talk about these things. Even a few years ago, I have found that during COVID, people have had to think about ways of getting to know each other at work because we're all remote. And doing all of the wellness activities that we've been doing, which are all remote has been a great way of getting to know people.

So when I started out talking about some of these words, I'm getting self of what do people think of this? Is it, is it is it a bit hippie? But now that we talk about it, it's normal at work and, In all kinds of different situations. These talk of woods have being used across industries. And certainly in the hopes of the industry, because people are there generally to help other people with the things that they design, there's much more awareness of these kinds of things.

In terms of how somebody, business could start small there's plenty of meditations on YouTube. Just play one of them in your next team meeting somebody else that we do at the start of all of our wellness sessions, we should probably do it all about group meetings is we just asked somebody to state in one word, how they feel when you start the meeting.

Now me as a leader, take notice some of those things. And discuss them with that particular staff member later. But when you do that at the start.

of the session, there was no discussion allowed to be entered into people. Just say, I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm irritated, I'm pissed off. But then everybody knows how they feel. 

[00:32:51] Nirish Shakya: I've tried asking people in beginning of a meeting at a workshop, how they feeling, but then a lot of times they just say, I'm fine. I'm good. You know that they're not honest with how they're actually really feeling deep inside because they probably don't feel psychologically safe to read express how they're truly feeling.

How do you encourage people to be their true selves and feel safe to just say how they're actually.

[00:33:14] James Breeze: Luck with all of this as a leader, my truth, my true self. And for you in the workshop, you need to be your true self and say how you really feel. We do a daily huddle update on slack every day. and I always ask people to say, how are you feeling? What are you doing? What problems have you got?

What do you need help with? And I still struggle sometimes with some parts of the business to get people to say that stuff, but I always say so if the boss is saying it, then I think patients are pretty more open to set themselves. All of this stuff has meant that I've had some fantastic conversations with staff members, which are not related to work that I would have never had before.

And I feel the gratitude that people would share that sort of thing with me. And I also feel gratitude that it is helping them improve and have a better life.

[00:34:00] Nirish Shakya: And let's say, you have someone listening right now. Who's a leader, a facilitator who just wants to, get the job done, just, get work in a workshop. And they might think, it just sounds like wasting time. I just wanna get the job done. What would you say to them? 

[00:34:13] James Breeze: Just give it a go and see what happens. I'm pretty sure that you feel pretty good and everyone else was pretty good too, because everybody is born with all of these things. And it generally tends to get drummed out of most of us. As we grow older, involved in a particular culture that we grew up in. 

[00:34:30] Nirish Shakya: yeah. And I remember like asking people how they're feeling for the first time. And I felt really awkward myself was like, oh yeah, I don't want to do this because it's just like too wishy-washy and like you said, very, it feels very hippy. But actually, you know what, I did something like that recently where I asked them to drag and drop in emoji, their favorite emoji onto like a, the emotion wheel, the feelings wheel with lots of different, feel your feelings.

And I did that at the beginning people drop their, emerges onto the feeling. And I did that at the end of the workshop and I saw that their emotions changed during the. So in the beginning they said, oh yeah, I'm feeling a bit stressed or a bit spaced out or a bit tired. And then I, when I got them to do their feelings check at the end they were like, oh, I feel more focused.

Now. I feel we feel like we, I feel more 

[00:35:18] James Breeze: Well done. 

[00:35:19] Nirish Shakya: And it was a great way to do that with the check-in and the.

[00:35:21] James Breeze: Yeah. That's a fantastic idea. And people love it because we're all human and we're all, we all like compassion. That's the.

currency that we all live on. Most people call it love. There's no doubt about that.

[00:35:32] Nirish Shakya: But one thing that I've always been scared off is when you walk in as a consultant or a designer, and there is I don't know the director in the room, or especially let's say the director of data who doesn't talk about emotions and feelings. It's all about like hive data. And I've always been scared of talking to those people because they look for they will just talk business and really serious things. How can he go in and talk about these things when you yourself are scared to talk 


[00:36:01] James Breeze: Just get over it, let your ego go. And don't worry about it because everyone's human. We're all built the same way fundamentally and have issue in Singapore, you know, because, people more, um, focused on work and, you know, getting the job done, but everybody is appreciated.

What we're talking about.

and I think it's benefit from it now. 

[00:36:26] Nirish Shakya: That's something. We probably shouldn't forget that we are working with humans. Um, and they have feelings too.

[00:36:34] James Breeze: Yeah, exactly. I mean, You're stepping out on the limb just by calling 

your podcast Design Feeling. And I love that play on words because it is about feeling. It's not about thinking design thinking is not about, you know, you got to understand how people feel and how you feel when you've been designing things. You have just think about stuff because we're feeling beings.

[00:36:51] Nirish Shakya: Um, and obviously, you've been thinking about this stuff, for a while, and you've know, trying to lead this as a leader within your organization, L's a kind of career putting together this framework and this cademy. What are some of the biggest challenges or hurdles you faced in trying to speak up for some of these things that you believe in. 

[00:37:10] James Breeze: Getting over my own ego thinking, oh, it's not that important. Or when people, I don't want to listen or doing this, you know, I'm delaying it. I have been delaying it is the question I came up with the, Conscious Experience Design framework in. about Q2 And it's, it's it's around, but it's still not fully out there.

And then I came up with the conscious competencies ago. Um, And one of the things I did to continue um, getting the stuff done is to beat. God's lucky because, you know, I had to think about our math, talk about it. I have to present to other people. I've also been interviewed university, similar topic.

Um, And I specifically did those things so that I could give myself a kick up the button and get things done. 

[00:37:55] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, I think sometimes just having that external accountability can really push you, 

[00:37:59] James Breeze: Exactly. 

[00:38:00] Nirish Shakya: Do 

[00:38:01] James Breeze: Yeah. And it is hard, you know, I do have accountability at work, but a little bit Um, it was a bit I can ability is, is critical. Um, you know, so yeah, I'm getting on with it now and, uh, I love it. It's the best part of my day talking about And teaching staff, this kind of stuff,

[00:38:20] Nirish Shakya: And if you had to start this journey again, what's the one thing you do differently? 

[00:38:25] James Breeze: Change the past. So I'm happy with the way that it's gone. And I've always gone for the life balance. Throughout the time we've owned the business in Sydney, Singapore, Bali, and the gold coast. And I probably took my off for awhile on some business things while I was in Bali. But that's okay because I had fun. But now I'm very focused on the business. But having these types of things to think about and to teach and to learn myself Brings me joy. So I'm intention. And I like to do that kind of thing. So that commitment is good. Something also in terms of running a businesses to operationalize these things and build software that does that that you can potentially. I've had lots of ideas over the years of software, that I could build to help improve the way that we do what we do and haven't done it for various reasons, I had, I had my time again, I would have probably built something early on that I could leverage. And then, don't need to worry about cashflow as much because consulting projects are always up and down 

[00:39:27] Nirish Shakya: what's been your best resource that's helped you along in this journey? Is it like a book or I don't know, a person you follow or look up to.

[00:39:38] James Breeze: well, meditation would be my best resource for life. Managing stress, coming up with new ideas innovating yeah, and generally every morning I like to do a Monmouth. 

I love mind maps. I'll do them one, but every morning, I talk about. 

[00:39:54] Nirish Shakya: I think, I remember seeing your some map you drew on a train in Russia. Was it, 

[00:39:59] James Breeze: Probably I've done lots of

[00:40:00] Nirish Shakya: you?

[00:40:04] James Breeze: talk people out of the mind mapping back in the day. But yeah, I am my map. What I'm grateful for, what I want to achieve. And on particular day, what my intention is for my meditation, all kinds of things. Can I find that is the best tool and the meditation is the best tool for me day to day.

[00:40:18] Nirish Shakya: What would you recommend? A designer put on those maps, let's say what should I map? What is it at that actually.

[00:40:24] James Breeze: Every morning I fill out a mind map, which I call my morning magic.

and it starts out

[00:40:32] Nirish Shakya: morning 

[00:40:33] James Breeze: it starts out with the things that I'm grateful for. Both positive and negative. And why this thing takes about 10 minutes to fill out or depending on how much I've get in the flow and start writing.

I will say write down how I felt when I woke up and then also write down, I'll do this after my meditation. And I write down what my meditation experience was like, what type of thought of what I saw, how I felt, that sort of thing. And then I think the next thing is that I write down daily, inspirational and compassionate work on myself, my family, my friends, my community, to improve outcomes in the world.

So I list things exactly. I write them down myself, what am I going to do? Colleague Ben, family, friends, work community write those things down. Sometimes I want to have something, but I try to at least put three main things on that list and achieve them during the. I will say, write down inspiring and credit things about thought or insights that I've had.

Also my question for the day, which I generally use the next day is my question. So, my question, my meditation this morning was showing me how to be healthy because I've just had COVID and I've got no energy. So that was my question. 

[00:41:42] Nirish Shakya: So, is that a question that you are seeking answers to? 

[00:41:45] James Breeze: Yes, that's right. Yeah. So it might be a, a universe, show me how to? complete my conscious competencies and share them with the world. And I'll just put that as an intention in my meditation and then get on with it. 

[00:41:59] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I've been recently in a learning more about, intentions and just I'm writing down some of these questions and the direction you're seeking without actually having to have a solution can trigger, things in your subconscious mind at a 

later date. Is that, is that so 

[00:42:15] James Breeze: Yeah. absolutely. Yeah. them, um, thinking to yourself, Medicard and your meditation goes on you know, your on your phone that, uh, good things happen. 

[00:42:25] Nirish Shakya: Looking back at, the industry, the whole UX and design industry what is the one common myth that you'd like to.

[00:42:33] James Breeze: I admit is that this is all hard and expensive. Doing research or doing design the right way. I think if people are more conscious with the way that they do things in the considered in their approaches, then, doing something is enough. It doesn't have to be a massive, multiple year long project to. gather requirements or do testing or whatever, but just doing something is enough. One of the most popular things we've been doing recently is agile. Remote. Online usability testing for clients with five people we'll do that in an agile project over and over again in multiple languages. But these things aren't expensive. It's just about doing something. Yeah. And the other thing which we do a lot of now digitally has come back is eras evaluations, just, having a third party perspective on somebody else's product is enough. And it's TAFE and fast, so we shouldn't forget. 


[00:43:25] Nirish Shakya: It have to be something massive. 

[00:43:26] James Breeze: Yeah. 

But just not thinking outside of the box, I think just, taking into account all the potential influences that the product could have on the people who were using it, the people who they know the business, the technology and the environment. The community, just having more broadly about the other than just saying, oh I've got to design this particular e-commerce application for this thing, but just being a little bit more conscious about other impacts that it can have. And that could be as simple as just asking your partner or asking a friend, about how they do that sort of stuff. That simple stuff doesn't happen enough. 

[00:44:01] Nirish Shakya: Great. So I've got one more question for you. Imagine it's your last day on earth and you've been, someone came to you with a very tiny piece of paper and said, write down your last words for the world to see. And we will put this up on a massive billboard for, yeah, pretty much everyone in the world. See, what would you write down on that tiny piece?

[00:44:24] James Breeze: Be The present.. 

[00:44:26] Nirish Shakya: Be present. What did you mean by that?

[00:44:29] James Breeze: the rubbish in your head and just be present. And now focusing on the anxiety of the past, worrying about the future. 

[00:44:39] Nirish Shakya: Great. I love that. Awesome. 

Thank you so much for that, James. Thank you for sharing your insights, your learnings, about some of the things that you've been working on. I've been taking a lot of notes here. I love the elements within your framework, how you talk about, the presence, the purpose. The trust in a focus, compassion, empathy, and happiness things that I myself have not personally come across a lot, working in the industry where we talk about hard metrics and engagement grades and, retention rates and so on. But it seems to be a pretty fresh perspective of looking at things in terms of the impact. You're having three products in the world. And I think you didn't touch upon the importance of asking questions about the impact that your products, any work might be having without actually having a straightforward answer, but just asking the question can raise that awareness. And also I think one of the things I liked about what he said was around how can we use, tools whether it's eye tracking or whether some of the framework that you've been working on to make the unconscious Right. I think that's something that Carl Jung also said as well, in terms of how we can help people make themselves more conscious of some of the things that they might not be conscious of. I love it. How you mentioned, it's so crucial to start with people first, not products because it's the people building the products. my maps, I'm going to definitely try that. So how do we every day yep. Put in Nikki diary every day. How do you, even if it's just like 10 minutes, sit down and write down or map out these things and ask yourself different questions again, in feels like that's an exercise that can help you 

[00:46:17] James Breeze: it's no different than writing in a diary. All I've done is listed out a list of things that I think are important to ask myself every day. Lots of reading of lots of different books, diaries 

[00:46:32] Nirish Shakya: I think ultimately one of the, my takeaways from this was how, starting some of these initiatives within an organization can feel really scary, especially if you're the lone voice in the company, thinking about these things, but just having the courage to start small can be that little spark that you might need to start that conversation or gather more people who also think along the same lines. And like you said, there's some, this is something that seems to be a an urgent thing for a lot of us to do is to be aware of, how we're feeling and how we're thinking and how that guides that our actions. 

[00:47:06] James Breeze: wellness, stuff that we're doing at work. It wasn't my idea. It was a Legionnaires on day. One of us stuff who said to me one day said to me, one day we have a drinks on a Thursday, but you don't drink. And she said, well, you might get about health. did. And that's where that came from. Obviously I jumped on it with her and with others. And the other thing, which has been really powerful is competencies that I talked about, the open-mindedness reasoning, self-awareness that sort of thing. There's content that we're delivering to, train each other on those topics, I'm not writing it.

I've got some ideas, but I'll give them to staff who show interest and 

[00:47:51] Nirish Shakya: Um,

Great. So yeah. Put it, put your ideas out there, to your bosses, to managers, to your busy leaders and who knows, like there might also be thinking of the same thing. 

[00:48:02] James Breeze: Actually the ones that are a little bit open-minded 

[00:48:07] Nirish Shakya: where would you like listeners to find you, after the episode? 

[00:48:11] James Breeze: I'm on LinkedIn James Breeze. So that's a great way to contact me, particularly for overseas. Uh, objective is our website and there's a blog on there, that we do talk about some of these issues and topics. I don't use social media much, as I said, 

[00:48:26] Nirish Shakya: Maybe that could be, could be another tip try to implement as well, because I pretty much addicted to social media. So maybe that'll help me kind of be more conscious. 

[00:48:35] James Breeze: I'm a photographer. I used to just type lots of landscape photos and watch and see how many likes and comments I got with them. And it became a little bit of a, an addiction for me. So many photos anymore, but I don't 

[00:48:49] Nirish Shakya: I can, I can totally relate. 

[00:48:50] James Breeze: I connection some people, but, the good ones hanging 

[00:48:53] Nirish Shakya: Great. Well, Thank you so much for that, James. I've certainly learned loads from the conversation we've just had, and I'm sure whoever's listening right now has also had a lot of things to take away from that as well. So thank you so much for your time and we will see you again soon next time. 

[00:49:06] James Breeze: Fantastic questions. I really enjoyed it. It's helped me along my journey, and I look forward to continuing our discussions and anyone else, if you've got any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out. 

[00:49:18] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for listening to my chat with James. If you're enjoying listening to the Design Feeling Podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll help people decide whether they'd want to press the play button or not. And if you have any suggestions, ideas, or guests that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at and like always please share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who needs a bit of Design Feeling in their lives. See you next time.